Friday, February 23, 2007

Art vs. Craft - an Old Debate?

Long ago, I thought I was tired of the old art vs. craft arguments. Then I read the Redefining Craft, a blog by Dennis Stevens. I think Stevens’ comments on appropriation struck me with new vigor because I am wrestling with this issue in my studio. I know an Afghan threshing utensil from a Santa Fe gallery inspired my current project. The thresher was a large wooden form hanging on a white gallery wall, separated from the context of it’s original use. Rows and rows of sharp stones embedded in the wood added mystery, until I knew their function was to separate grain from straw. It gave me the idea to put stones into a clay/fiber piece. After collecting stones, I lined them up in the studio. Living with this row of stones for months convinced me that they were like vertebrae. Now they are embedded into clay/straw that I pressed between a narrow ladder-like form of branches that arches slightly away from the wall. I sometimes marvel at the way different influences converge into a piece. While the natural materials and the raw branches give a certain primitive look, I hope that this piece does not look derivative, that it has some poetic ring.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Starting a Critique Group

Fiberarts has several articles on critique groups. These articles are available only on the web. Articles cover setting up and maintaining a critique group, stimulating discussion and additional resources for talking about art.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cassandra Tondro

Cassandra Tondro uses nature to decompose her images. She dances the fine artistic line between control and loss of control. Letting nature take its course she produces sublime textures on canvas. Of course, she exercises control of the final composition. These pieces are large and must feel otherworldly when you walk toward the real piece. See more of her “Decomposition “ series at her web site. Her blog shows some images of a new landscape series inspired by “An Inconvenient Truth”.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Environmental Art Week in Scotland

This week long retreat in Scotland's Banffshire Coast looks wonderful and the cost is not at all prohibitive. Jonathon Claxton will lead participants in an opportunity to make artwork that embodies your immersion in nature. You can respond in any medium. Participants can also gain insight into Jonathon's working methods as he creates a piece during this week. There are two dates, a week in April and one in September.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Common Thread

A Common Thread part 2 opens at the Textile Center in Minneapolis on Friday, February 9, 2007. Prairie Wing is my entry for the exhibit. The first part of the exhibit ended last weekend. The member entries were of extremely high quality. It was wonderful to see the diversity of work produced by members of the Textile Center. The work showed a wide range of textile techniques. Posted by Picasa

Studio Shot: Inside Surface

After view

In my obsession with earth plasters, I stumbled upon a site describing tadelakt, a Moroccan lime finish for walls. It is so waterproof, that it can be used to make sinks. The surfaces get their wonderful soft shine from olive oil. The olive oil, however, is saponified –turned into soap. So plasterers brush a liquid soap on the walls and burnish them with smooth stones. I received some beautiful olive green Olivella soap for Christmas– saponified olive oil. I brushed this on the inside surface and burnished with a river pebble.

Before view

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Studio Shots: Outside Surface

After removing the wire screen, I have this form. Lines from the wire screen forms show on the outside. Some colored slips are added to the surface. It is far from finished. I have looked at milkweed pods and have decided to copy the colors, but not the stubbly outside surface. When looking at the entire piece you can sense the thin membrane. I do not want to add considerable thickness to the surface. Posted by Picasa


Studio Shots

I am struggling with surfaces. I like to make the surface as I make the form. When I use my version of the natural plaster method, I add to the surface afterwards. I could add linseed oil to the mix, but prefer to leave solvent fumes out of my studio for as long as possible. I am having fun exploring the surfaces, but when it feels too much like drawing or painting, it becomes a surface design exercise for me. I am trying to keep the surfaces true to the structural process. On this last piece, the building process shows on the outside. I am trying to decide how much of it to leave and how much to obliterate. I made the inside look quite organic and natural. It would be nice to contrast the outside with a different texture and concept. Manmade vs. Natural.

This shot shows the construction process. I hung the willow form between upright boards. Wire screen serves as a temporary form.
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